Getting Kids Engaged in Home Maintenance
May 24, 2018

Most families have tried to establish a simple chore schedule at one point or another, but after a few weeks, or even just a few days, keeping the kids on task can be more work than just doing those chores yourself. Here are a few suggestions that may make this easier.

Simple instructions

Some kids will use requests for explanation as a stalling tactic, but we all do have to learn how to make a bed or load a dishwasher at some point. These are tasks that may be second-nature for adults, but which children often genuinely struggle with, leaving them frustrated, embarrassed, and reluctant to keep trying. Try printing out a short list of steps for younger (or especially distractible) children to refer back to. For older kids, it could be fun to look up YouTube videos on different ways to fold and organize their clothes, or the most efficient bathroom cleaning "hacks."

Be creative about rewards

Don't feel limited to offering an allowance, if that's not what works for you. Self control is a skill that requires practice, and an effective way to instill those good habits is to build up positive associations. Just being sure to always offer verbal appreciation for finished tasks, no matter how small, can be extremely effective. Other great rewards are: A favorite meal for Friday dinner, a point system that can be redeemed for a special day out at the end of the month, or having some friends over for a movie night. The key when it comes to offering rewards is follow-through, otherwise they may pick up exactly the wrong lesson about responsibility.

Encourage a sense of ownership

We all want kids to be more responsible, but it's easy to forget that a large part of the adult sense of responsibility comes with ownership and control. If kids can decide how their toys are organized, then they may feel more motivated to keep them in order. If they can contribute ideas when a chore schedule is set up, then they may feel more invested in the system. Rewarding them with more autonomy, and listening to their suggestions, can help build up their confidence in all areas.

Pick your battles 

In that same vein, a child's room (or part of a room, if they share) is often their only sanctuary. That doesn't mean you should just allow a pig stye to develop in there if they don't feel like cleaning up, but it's something to consider when choosing your battles. Is it more important that they fold their clothes before shoving them into their drawers, or that they clean up after themselves in the shared bathroom? Their personal organization may improve as they develop their general skills, and you can save your energy for what really matters.

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